Thursday, 20 June 2013

The SIT Case against Zakia Petition

Against the SIT case for closure, Zakia-CJP have a voluminous petition.  My two bits sourced entirely from news-reports and articles freely available -

Indian Express news report

SIT Counsel R S Jamuar said there were four major allegations of larger conspiracy — failure to declare curfew in time, failure to make preventive arrests, deployment of Army and failure to make effective firing to control the rioting mob.
Jamuar said, "Curfew was imposed on time while 4000 people were rounded up within 72 hours after the riots broke out. Police fired more bullets than tear gas shells and that is the reason 100 people were killed."
About deployment of the Army, Jamuar told the court that accused number-one (Modi) had demanded extra forces from the Centre but it got delayed due to circumstances related to national security.
He added when the state got the nod it airlifted Army personnel to control the 2002 riots. Jamuar concluded that Zakia's complaint didn't have substance as the witnesses Zakia included were based on "hearsay" and "lies".

He also criticised Zakia for making the case political with the help of NGOs instead of keeping it as a criminal offence. Zakia's lawyer will start arguments on a daily basis from June 26 against SIT's closure report.

How Curfew was or not declared & Failure to make preventive arrests

Jamuar said, "Curfew was imposed on time while 4000 people were rounded up within 72 hours after the riots broke out.

However consider the following extract from Shiv Vishvanathan's article
Violence almost summons knee-jerk the idea of curfew or Section 144. Yet [in Ahmedabad] curfew was not imposed till 1:00 p.m. on the 28th, while the murders had commenced on the 27th evening. One has to ask: Was curfew delayed to allow for the congregation of rioters to facilitate their activities? Was the delay in curfew a ‘collaborative omission giving free hand to rioters?’ Was this also ‘in compliance with the CM’s instructions in the meeting on the 27th evening?’ Ironically, in some of the least communally volatile areas as in Saurashtra, curfew was imposed by 10 p.m. Finally, one has to ask whether the deployment of police was in terms of real time intelligence provide by the special branches in riot-affected districts. The network of documents from station diaries, periodical situation reports, messages to district and state control rooms, instructions to field officers from the DGP need scrutiny. This becomes all the more imperative given the admission by the Joint CP of Ahmedabad city before the Nanavati Commission. Mr. Shivanand Jha admitted that only one Hindu and six Muslims were arrested as a part of preventive action.
The question one has to ask is: Was there a facade of nominalism about the investigation to hide neglect? Consider the background: 54 people arrested in Ahmedabad city on 28 February 2002. None of the people in the list figured in the usual roster of ‘communally-minded’, people generally detained before such disturbances. One has to then ask: Was this a mere statistical display, a logic of clerical numbers assembled to satisfy protest or stem a later inquiry? 
Visualize the situation. The violence continued the whole day. Thousands congregated as a mob, yet not one is arrested. In fact, for the following six days not a single arrest was made. Can one conclude that the police gave them an adequate chance to escape?  
To give a perspective to the claim of Mr Jamuar that 4000 were rounded up within 72 hours after the riots broke out, in Mumbai, during the same period, 8000 VHP/BD activists were rounded up. Also, Jamuar fails to give specific figures for Ahmedabad, clubbing the data with rest of Gujarat's. A comprehensive account of role of police, good and bad is here.

NHRC report  on pattern of arrests 

Pattern of arrests
 17.             In this connection, the Commission has made a careful analysis of the pattern of arrests indicated to it by the State Government in its report of 12 April 2002.  That report states that a total number of 27,780 arrests had been made, involving both crimes and as preventive detention.  The response does not, however, make clear how many arrests, preventive or otherwise, were made in the worst afflicted areas of the State within the first 72 hours of the tragedy in Godhra, nor the community-wise break-up of those arrested in those areas in the immediate aftermath of Godhra, though such data would have enabled a proper scrutiny of the charge of discrimination brought against the State Government in respect of its conduct in the critical hours immediately after the Godhra tragedy and the call for the ‘bandh’.  This lack of transparency seriously undermines the response.  The report states instead, that, in relation to various offences, 11,167 persons were arrested, of whom 3,269 belonged to the “minority” community and 7,896 to the “majority.”  As regards the 16,615 preventive arrests, it mentions that 13,804 belong to the “majority” community and 2,811 to the “minority.”  The questions that arise, however, are when and where were the arrests made, who were arrested and for how long were they kept in custody, and were those who were specifically named arrested.    The Special Representative of the Commission, Shri Nampoothiri has observed in a report to the Commission dated 24 April 2002 that “almost 90% of those arrested even in heinous offences like murder, arson, etc., have managed to get bailed out almost as soon as they were arrested.”  Reports have also appeared in the media that those who have been released on bail were given warm public welcomes by some political leaders.  This is in sharp contrast to the assertion made by the State Government in its report of 12 April 2002 that “bail applications of all accused persons are being strongly defended and rejected” (sic).

Failure to make effective firing to control the rioting mob

Police fired more bullets than tear gas shells and that is the reason 100 people were killed."

Consider the city of Ahmedabad. On 28th Feb 2002, 40 were killed in police firing, 36 of them muslims. They were fleeing from the mob violence and their names can be found in the Citizen's Tribunal report and they have been sourced from hospitals. It will be interesting to know the details of each and every death in the police firing. The 4 non muslims who were killed in police firing in Ahmedabad on 28th met their end in the following way --
According to the three accused, the police not only gave them a free hand, but also exhorted the rioters to kill Muslims. Mangilal Jain said that the police inspector in-charge of Meghaninagar police station, KG Erda told the rioters that they had three to four hours to carry out killings. TEHELKA found that the police inspector had given this time since extra forces were expected to be in Ahmedabad that evening.

Jain said some in the police kept away, indicating to the rioters that they were to do whatever they wished in those few hours. This further fuelled the mob’s frenzy all over Ahmedabad and led to the deaths of many more Muslims.

Raju also told TEHELKA that police personnel deployed in the area not only stood back but signalled to the rioters to go for the kill. Erda arrived to “rescue” the survivors after the massacre was almost over. At this point, relates Chawal, the rioters approached Erda and told him he was not doing the right thing as the survivors could testify against them. So Erda came up with a heinous plan — as the van carrying the survivors drew away from Gulbarg, the rioters were to pelt stones at it so the constable on the vehicle could claim to have been scared off. He would flee and the mob could then torch it. But the plan could not be executed because of the timely intervention of a Muslim inspector called Pathan, Chawal said.
PI Pathan fired into the mob which resulted in four deaths.  

Deployment of Army

Jamuar told the court that accused number-one (Modi) had demanded extra forces from the Centre but it got delayed due to circumstances related to national security.

What did the then president Mr K R Narayanan have to say about the deployment of the army?
There was governmental and administrative support for the communal riots in Gujarat. I gave several letters to Prime Minister Vajpayee in this regard on this issue. I met him personally and talked to him directly. But Vajpayee did not do anything effective.
I requested him to send the army to Gujarat and suppress the riots. The Centre had the Constitutional responsibility and powers to send the military if the state governments asked. The military was sent, but they were not given powers to shoot. If the military was given powers to shoot at the perpetrators of violence, recurrence of tragedies in Gujarat could have been avoided.
However, both the state and central government did not do so. Had the military been given powers to shoot, the carnage in Gujarat could have been avoided to a great extent. I feel there was a conspiracy involving the state and central governments behind the Gujarat riots.
A not very complimentary picture emerges from the following news report & an extract from an article -
Soldiers 'held back to allow Hindus revenge'
By Rahul Bedi in Ahmedabad
12:01AM GMT 04 Mar 2002

TROOPS and police appeared to have most of Gujarat state under control yesterday after almost 500 people had died in India's worst Hindu-Muslim bloodshed in a decade.
Intelligence officials admitted, however, that there had been a deliberate delay by federal and state governments in deploying the army to give Hindu militants a free hand after a Muslim mob  killed 58 Hindus on a train.
 The air force had 13 transport aircraft fuelled and ready at Jodhpur in neighbouring Rajasthan state to ferry troops to Ahmedabad, early on Thursday evening, when the rioting was at its height.
"But for an inexplicable reason, even though it was apparent that the state police were proving incapable, 1,000 troops were flown out only the next morning," said a senior military officer.
 On arriving in Ahmedabad, scene of the worst violence, the soldiers were not provided with transport, information on communally sensitive areas or guides.
"When the army was eventually deployed on Friday evening it was not taken to the trouble spots, but merely asked to display itself in areas from which the Muslims had already fled," a security officer said. 
"It was a calculated decision by the state's Hindu nationalist government." 
Intelligence officials admitted that a "systems failure", prompted by politicians, allowed the rioting to continue. They said some police connived and, at times, even helped Hindu mobs. 
Narinder Modi, Gujarat's chief minister, said yesterday: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." His officials conceded that this was a "cynical justification" of four days of rioting. Mr Modi, who belongs to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party that heads the federal coalition, added that Gujarat's 50 million people had shown "remarkable restraint under grave provocation", implying that the violence could have been worse. 
A curfew was in place last night in sensitive parts of Ahmedabad, but an air of normality was returning. However, Muslim survivors of grisly massacres and the unchecked 30-hour orgy of violence and arson, were bemused. 
They said the police simply stood by, or in some cases even encouraged the rioters as they went on the rampage, burning entire families to death in their homes. "The police actively supported the rioters, almost as if they were accompanying them," Sakina Inayat Sajid, who lost six of her family and whose husband is missing, said from her hospital bed. The few policemen she pleaded with for help in Shehajpuri Patia told her to "go and die elsewhere". But there was no escape. All exit points had been surrounded by mobs armed with swords, iron rods, acid and paraffin. 
"I do not know how I made it out alive," said Mehboob Sheikh, a lorry driver, who lost all nine family members, including his two children. The killings ended when the first troops arrived."But by then it was too late," said Shabana Abdul Sayeed at the local civil hospital. "There was nothing left to destroy or burn." 
The roots of the violence lie in the decade-old campaign by Hindus to build a temple to their god Lord Ram on the site of a mosque at Ayodhya. The 16th century mosque was razed by Hindus in 1992, believing the spot to be Ram's exact birth place. This led to countrywide riots in which more than 2,000 died. The Hindus burned in a train last week were returning from Ayodhya. 
Under instructions from the federal administration, Ayodhya has been sealed off. Atal Behari Vajpayee, the prime minister, who is confronting his worst political crisis since coming to power four years ago, has met World Hindu Council leaders and asked them to drop, or at least postpone their plans in the interests of communal harmony. 
The Foreign Office said last night that it had no further information on Britons caught up in the rioting other than that Mohammed Aswat Nallabhai, a man from Batley, West Yorks, had been killed. One of Mr Nallabhai's relatives was injured and two others are missing.
Now some extracts from Shiv Visvanathan's article 
 More particularly, was there a delay in requisitioning army and central paramilitary forces so that one could give a free hand to anti-Muslim rioters?
We discover that Major General [Zameeruddin Shah], the area commander, observed that misleading information was conveyed to army units. As a result, they landed in peaceful areas while rioters went unchecked. To avoid this, the army later responded directly to public calls of distress ignoring the local police in the later period of the riots. Incidentally, {Zameeruddin] is the brother of the famous actor, Nasiruddin Shah. Witnesses feel that the assumption or the cloak of immaculate innocence around top officers has to be challenged. Individuals like Ashok Narayan, ACS, and DGP K. Chakravarty have to be interrogated. To pretend they are part of a silent film is no longer acceptable. Truth telling has to be a public act open to public scrutiny. 
Needless to say, the area commander  Maj Gen Zameeruddin Shah was not examined by SIT